There really isn’t a bad time to visit Capitol Reef National Park. Whether you’re taking advantage of school vacations with a summer visit or enjoying the park with fewer crowds during the off-season, there’s never any shortage of things to see, do, and enjoy all year round.
But while there might not be a bad season in the park, one, in particular, stands out. The fall season offers cooler temperatures, some beautiful scenery, and even a few unique activities that make it a great time to visit the park. Keep reading to learn how to plan the ultimate fall getaway in Capitol Reef National Park.
Experiencing the Fall Colors
Wayne County, home to Capitol Reef National Park, is one of the best places in all of Utah for experiencing the fall color change. Three mountain ranges converge here, creating a wide range of altitudes home to a variety of tree species, many of which have leaves that change color this season.
Because of the different altitudes, keep in mind that different areas may experience the fall color change at different times. While the higher regions may experience changing leaves early in the season, a short drive into the valley might bring you back to green leaves and summer temperatures. So if you don’t see any yellow, orange, and red leaves right away when you arrive, take a drive to a higher altitude and you might get lucky enough to find that fall has arrived there.
One great drive to take this season is along Scenic Byway 12. This drive takes you to the summit of Boulder Mountain. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the top, and along the way, you’ll pass a variety of distinct growing regions, with fall colors changing with the altitude. From the top, you’ll also enjoy sweeping views of Capitol Reef from far above the park.
If fall colors have arrived in the park, be sure to leave time for the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive. This road is a 25-miles roundtrip and features plenty of pull-offs that are perfect for stopping to capture pictures of the stunning fall colors set against sandstone cliffs and red rock formations.
Capitol Reef usually experiences peak fall colors in mid-October, so if you have your heart set on seeing them, plan your visit to Cougar Ridge for the middle of the month.
Fewer Crowds Through the Week
Unlike Zion National Park, Capitol Reef doesn’t see its peak crowds during the summer months. Instead, it draws the most visitors from March to June and September to October. That said, even during the busiest times of the year, you won’t have to contend with the long lines that Zion or Arches see during their busiest periods.
Some parking lots in Capitol Reef will fill up fast on weekends, particularly when the weather is nice or the fall colors are in full swing. If you want to experience fewer crowds, aim to visit the park through the week. If you do visit on the weekend, get to the park early in the day to guarantee your choice of parking spots. In the late afternoon and early evening, crowds tend to thin out again, making it a good time to enjoy some shorter hikes.
Cougar Ridge is just a short drive away from the park, making it easy to get there early before the crowds arrive each day.
Don’t Miss a Visit to The Orchards
One of the biggest reasons why Capitol Reef National Park is so popular in the spring and fall is its orchards. The land that encompasses the park today was once home to Fruita, a pioneer community first settled in 1880. Here, settlers planted row after row of fruit trees, including apples, apricots, pears, peaches, plums, and cherries. While the orchards are now a part of the park, they have been maintained and protected as a part of the Fruita Rural Historic Landscape.
Visitors to the park can experience the more than 1,900 trees that come alive with bright flowering blooms during the spring. And if you visit in the fall, you can even pick fruit. Fruit picking is only allowed during designated times, which change depending on when the fruit ripens each year. You’ll pay for your picks using a self-pay station that allows you to weigh and pay only for what you take.
Capitol Reef National Park is the only national park in the nation that allows fruit-picking, so this is a must-see during your visit. If you don’t want to pick fruit or want to enjoy a sweet treat made from fruit harvested in the orchards during your visit, you’ll also find fresh-baked pies, ice cream, and more at Gifford Homestead, a historic farm open to visitors.
Planning a Fall Visit to Capitol Reef National Park
If you’ve never had the chance to experience Southern Utah in the fall, you’re missing out. Plan your visit to Capitol Reef this fall to experience the changing leaves, fruit picking, incredible weather, and a trip you won’t soon forget! Book your stay at Cougar Ridge today to guarantee your spot this fall.